The overarching question imparting urgency to this exploration is: Can U.S.-Russian contention in cyberspace cause the two nuclear superpowers to stumble into war? In considering this question we were constantly reminded of recent comments by a prominent U.S. arms control expert: At least as dangerous as the risk of an actual cyberattack, he observed, is cyber operations’ “blurring of the line between peace and war.” Or, as Nye wrote, “in the cyber realm, the difference between a weapon and a non-weapon may come down to a single line of code, or simply the intent of a computer program’s user.”
What can the rise of Japan and Germany in the last century - or the rise of Athens 2,000 years earlier - tell us about the risks facing the US and China today? Is a US-China war inevitable?
Graham Allison, among the most astute geostrategic observers of his generation, terms this “Thucydides’s Trap.” He takes us back to the Peloponnesian war to remind us of the timeless insights of the historian Thucydides: When a rising power rivals a ruling power, danger is near. In fact, in 12 of the 16 occasions this global power pattern has repeated, the outcome was war. With this view to history, the existential challenge of our era is not violent Islamic extremists or a resurgent Russia; it is the impact of China’s ascendance on the international order. According to Allison, "Never before in history has a nation risen so far, so fast."
Even Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged that the world “work together to avoid the Thucydides trap… Our aim is to foster a new model of major country relations.” But is being aware of danger enough to avoid it? While the West seeks to encircle and constrain, China demonstrates, with aggressive naval exercises in disputed seas, that it will demand the respect due a major power in its own region and the world. Can the world escape the perilous prophecy of Athens and Sparta?
Graham Allison, director of Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, founding dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School and advisor to every secretary of defense from Reagan to Obama, shares insights from his career, and outlines the painful steps both China and the US must take to avoid disaster.
Tuesday, June 06, 2017 6:30PM - 7:30PM
World Affairs Auditorium
312 Sutter Street, Suite 200 San Francisco, CA
More information and RSVP here